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Saleem Haddad recently published a novel about a gay man living in the Arab world.  (Image courtesy of Eman Ali)
Left to right: Ustaz Marwan, Ahmad Al-Masri and Saleem Haddad.
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This photo has become a symbol of Arab solidarity with the Orlando shooting victims

By Selina Cheng

A picture of three Arab men in drag is going viral, in the wake of yesterday’s horrific mass shooting of 50 people at a gay club in Florida.

In the background, two tattooed men in corsets and necklaces sit with their legs crossed. In the foreground, another man poses in a golden mask and a red traditional Bahraini thob nashal, adorned with the golden embroidery typically seen at engagement or wedding ceremonies, photographer Eman Ali explains to Quartz in an email.

Ali took the photo of her friends as they were heading to a party in London on Saturday night, hours before the shooting in Orlando. ”At that time, we all said we weren’t going to share these photos… it was just us having fun,” Saleem Haddad, one of the men in the picture, tells Quartz. “But then we got home and saw what had happened.”

“We thought that it was important to share this photo in solidarity with the victims of the attacks,” he says of their decision to post it on Facebook. “We also wanted to complicate the narrative. As Arabs and Muslims, we are also part of the LGBT community and we feel the pain and the tragedy have an effect on our lives.”

The image quickly went viral, attracting over 8,600 likes and 3,400 shares on Facebook at time of writing.

“There is actually a lot of queer tolerance in the Arab countries,” writes Ali. “Homophobia does not exist within a single community or religious sect, its poison can be found in the hearts of anyone anywhere.”

June is LGBT pride month, when parades, parties and events around the world celebrate queer history and culture. This year, June also happens to fall in the lunar month of Ramadan, a holy time of fasting for the Muslim faith.